How can I make my thin, fine hair wavy for a whole day?
June 14, 2016 2:01 AM   Subscribe

I have long, thin, fine, hair and I fantasise about wavy tresses like these for my wedding next month (I am doing my hair myself). I have previously had zero luck with rollers or metal curling tongs + hairspray and/or mousse, they leave me with sticky, flat, straight hair after an hour or two. Help?

If you have this hair (so soft and fine, no body at all) have you got a magic product or tool that works and stays working all day?

If you have Knowledge About These Things can you give me any tips or tricks that are foolproof?

Do I need to grit my teeth and shell out for some posh ceramic tongs?

Or do I just need to get over that I can't make my hair do this and get a perm or give up? I don't really want to get a perm as I'm afraid it will make my poor delicate hair fall out.

All advice appreciated!

anon cause my spouse to be is a lurker!
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think you'll find the magic product in the second picture is 'hair extensions.' It might also be best to get a stylist to do your hair like this on the day.
posted by nerdfish at 2:58 AM on June 14, 2016 [30 favorites]

Try this. To best prep your hair to hold curls, stop washing with shampoo and conditioner. Mine goes from straight to wavy just by using plain water and scrubbing my scalp with my fingers every day. (Heavy chemicals wash out your natural hair oils, and you can't afford to weigh fine hair down! You want the shaft of your hair to stay "clingy" for styling.) To clean out gunk and add shine, I also squeeze a lemon over my head once a week and let sit for five minutes before washing out.

After you get out of the shower, remove excess water by toweling until damp. Run a fine toothed comb over your hair to remove tangles, then do the "twist and shout." Using a rattail comb, section your hair in 1"x1" squares, looping each square of hair around and around until it curls in on itself like a snake. Bobby pin the coils into place. Make sure you twist all the curls in the same direction!

When your hair is completely dry (use a diffuser then finish by air), take the pins out.

For the beachy waves of the first look, brush your fingers through until the waves align how you like. Don't use a brush! Scrunch with both hands, spritz on a sea salt texturizer, and backcomb the underside. Now hair spray it all to hell and back. Don't ever use mousse, it's too heavy for you.


If this fails, see a pro :)
posted by fritillary at 3:15 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Extensions, seriously. You can get lovely clip-in real-hair ones for like $70 at Sally Beauty and comparable supply stores, cut them to match your existing hair length, and even a few make a substantial difference in the body of the hair.
posted by Bardolph at 4:06 AM on June 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Agree about extensions, and when I was looking at them I found something called "the halo" and it just rests on your head and you pull your own hair through. Might make it easier for a newbie to manage! That was my thought anyway when I was thinking about getting a piece.
posted by flink at 4:46 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

This could just be me, but curling my hair with a straightening iron looks WAY better and holds a lot longer than curling iron. Seriously, once I learned how to do it I got rid of my curling iron forever.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:46 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

My hair is like yours - fine, way too soft, and flat. It laughs at curling irons and flat irons. I can twist a section into a blazing hot curling iron and leave it for a minute and it comes out of it flat, totally uncurled, and steaming. Before you buy any expensive tools, do try to borrow some from a friend to give it a go to see if yours responds like mine.
posted by cecic at 5:19 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Was just about to write the same as goodbyewaffles - a friend did my hair with a straightening iron last month, and it lasted almost all day, and didn't fry my hair.

My this, fine, rebellious hair needs a little help to keep a style/looking good, and likes Living Proof's PhD night cap - *not* their styling creme. I used to like a discontinued Paul Mitchell Styling Creme. Also, doing a mask for 20 minutes before you wash with the Devacurl conditioner (not the mask, this was a tip from a Sephora employee. Apparently its not just for curly hair). If you have a Sephora near you, it might be worth going and getting a lot of samples and seeing if anything helps hold your style.
posted by troytroy at 5:20 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Any chance you could trim it a little? My (also fine) hair gets much wavier when it's shorter.
posted by orrnyereg at 5:22 AM on June 14, 2016

If you can get someone to do your hair, that's probably better. You don't want expensive products or even a pile of medium to low cost product you're never going to use again if this isn't your daily routine, and having someone do your hair will take the stress off for the day which is never bad. The pro will be be able to advise you on how to get the look you want to last (extensions, whatever) and will be happy to help you do it . . .and then you never have to deal with it again if you don't want to. Just my two cents. My hair is soft and fine (although there is a lot of it) and it's a pain in the ass to get it to do anything specific, unless someone with skill is doing it. I'm always much happier with my hair when it matters, if I've had it done. Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:56 AM on June 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

If it's going to be humid, curls and waves will fall out, especially with the drag of long hair. Shorter hair will keep waves longer but humidity can ruin that too. So yeah, try extensions.

If you don't want extensions, I also recommend a ceramic flat iron. Lots of tutorials on YouTube. Maybe you do tighter curls and get all your photos done earlier in the day and let your hair fall into a softer wave as the day goes on.

For body, I highly HIGHLY! recommend styling powder. They're called different things by different brands but look for little plastic containers the size of a film cannister. Supermarket ones I've used (fudge, vo5) are better than the one expensive brand (Kevin Murphy) I've tried. I find the "men's" ones have more grip. They're like backcombing. Your hair gets a bit Velcro-y. Tiny sprinkle where you want more volume and for me, it completely removes the need for blow drying or teasing or any other products to make my hair bigger. My hair feels clean and light.

So maybe powder + flat iron the lengths?
Borrow someone's GHD and bring it with you, you can touch up during the day.
Good luck, have a great day!
posted by stellathon at 6:27 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Came in to say extensions or some sort of hairpiece.

For real, though. Extensions.
posted by jbenben at 6:29 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also have baby fine hair and tons of it. My hair is naturally curly but, the moment I brush it or go outside, it goes flat, so I wouldn't bother with a perm, you would probably have the same problem.

Layers help a lot! Go to the best stylist that you can find and get many, many layers. It will lighten your hair enough to give you body, without losing any length. Try different shampoos and trying going to bed with your hair wet and in a towel. I found that gravity really affects my fine hair. If I'm laying down or sleeping while it air dries, I get a lot more body than any other way. Blow drying it just makes it go flat.

I'm still looking for product. Everything so far has just gotten me the same results as you.

The first picture is a messy, beach look. You could try spritzing your hair with salt water to see if it reacts the way you want it. The second picture isn't natural hair, like everyone is saying.

Remember, he's marrying you, not your hair. It's okay to look like yourself on your wedding day.
posted by myselfasme at 6:48 AM on June 14, 2016

For body, I highly HIGHLY! recommend styling powder

I have fine straight hair that also doesn't do a whole lot (although currently in a pixie cut), and yes, styling powder. If you memail me your address, I can send you some to try. I have more than I'll need for the next few years, and just got a sample of Bumble & Bumble's Pret-a-Powder that I don't mind sharing.

Even with styling tools and products, your best bet is extensions and/or a stylist.
posted by Fig at 6:58 AM on June 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Keep in mind that those pictures are really two very different looks. I'm assuming you want something sort of in between: big, voluminous waves but fewer flyaways.

Second, you'll want to practice this at least a few times between now and then. Do it in dirty hair. You'll want to tease the crown first to give you some lift on top of your head rather than just on the sides; then smooth it on top and form your part.

You can probably use whatever tool you already own. Pin your hair up gently in sections so you curl the bottom first and work up. Spritz a small (really--small! smaller than your little finger!) section of hair with hairspray. Use the curling iron on high heat, spinning away from your face, and leave the bottom 1-2" of the section outside the curling iron. Hold it for longer than you think you should. DON'T TOUCH IT. Continue until the rest of your head is done. The only touching you may do is to gently pull the section from the bottom to make it slightly less curly.

After your whole head is cool (like REALLY cool--give it 20+ minutes from the last section), finger-comb to break up the curls. You'll want to touch up here and there; a second person is useful for that. You can then hair spray all over and gently scrunch.
posted by mchorn at 7:38 AM on June 14, 2016

Also, as someone with very thin hair, I'm cringing a little at the advice to get layers and work with unwashed hair. If your hair is seriously thin, even a little grease at the roots will make it look stringy - ditto for getting layers. Styling powders and dry shampoo for life!

Things that have helped me: getting highlights (the increased porosity means my hair now holds a curl like it owes it money), blow drying upside down with a powerful-ass hairdryer to get lift at the roots (Parlux changed my life), and this woman on YouTube.

But, for real, if you want hair like this the best thing is to go to a pro and prepare to spend some money on extensions.

Edited to add: see also this excellent post on how to achieve 'instagram hair.'
posted by nerdfish at 8:14 AM on June 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have your exact hair. Once in my life I got curls that stayed for hours, and that was when an Armenian friend with super thick curly hair used her double-barreled curling iron (like this) on my hair. My hair was crazy enough that someone asked me if I was a foreign exchange student.
posted by jabes at 8:21 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I would just go to a salon or blowout bar and pay to have that done. I have really thick hair that holds a curl well, but I've never been able to achieve those kinds of looks on my own. Maybe you are better at styling hair but I usually just end up with a poor, frizzy approximation of a style after hours of sweat. To me, the 50-70 dollars would be well worth the trouble/time you would otherwise spend. You will probably need extensions anyway, to achieve that volume...But you can put those in and have someone style them too.
posted by sprezzy at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Since others have already covered the styling angle, I'll talk about the diet component. Try eating gelatin, eating more meat, and/or pregnancy pills to increase hair keratin. I notice that my diet affects how my hair looks (I see a difference a week or two later).
posted by kinoeye at 9:04 AM on June 14, 2016

I have your exact same hair (I really LOLed at the description upthread of locks coming out of a curling iron steaming hot and flat - that is SO my experience), and I strongly recommend taking all the money you are about to spend on styling products, tools, dietary aids (?), and layers, and put it all toward a stylist without a second thought. Preferably one who will come to you so your curls don't get lost in transit between the altar and wherever you're getting dressed and styled. Unless you are already skilled and comfortable doing your own hair (and I didn't really get that sense from your post), this will relieve a ton of stress and save so much time. A stylist has both the gear and the knowledge to preserve your wedding hair through pictures, ceremony, dinner, and first dance (and after that point, you won't care anymore).

Or, actually, the blowout bar suggestion above is an excellent one. I've gotten really great blowouts there that have lasted all day and into the next. I don't know how they succeed in brute-forcing my hair into curly submission and I cannot, but there you go.

Seriously, professionals are the way to go here.
posted by anderjen at 9:24 AM on June 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

I am also getting married this year and my hairstylist instructed me to stop shampooing but once a week. Now I wash with hot water, scrubbing my scalp with my fingertips. I rinse with cold water before getting out of the shower. I wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner on Thursdays. My hair has gotten thicker and more amenable to styling. On Wednesday I usually have to put it up in a bun, but it works! My hair is very fine and I used to have to hairspray it to oblivion to get it to hold a style. Now I can put it up with combs. Combs and no product!
posted by domo at 9:28 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also have fine, stick straight hair that will not hold a curl. SO calls it hamster hair. I think extensions, as so many people have mentioned, are the way to go. I've found that even when I have my hair professionally done (without extensions), it still looks flat compared to the inspiration pictures I showed the stylist.

Many hair stylists have advised me against having lots of layers, because it makes fine straight hair look even finer and stringy, so I wouldn't go down that route. In the distant past when I've had lots of layers, my ponytails were sad skinny little things I'd have to wrap my elastic around 10 times to hold together. The last thing you want is less hair! I also wouldn't try going to sleep with wet hair, because if you're anything like me, your hair will need a complete re-wet and blowdry the following day to just be presentable enough to leave the house (think asymmetrical bumps, baby hairs around my face pointing in all directions, waves on one side of my head and completely flat, greasy looking hair on the other side, despite just having been washed).

I would stay away from hairsprays and mousse because they can weigh everything down and opt for dry shampoo for texture/volume instead. But yes, extensions + professional are really the way to go, especially for an event whose pictures you'll be looking at for the rest of your life. Good luck! :)
posted by ohmy at 9:46 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Are you planning on doing your own hair? Or do you just want advice so that your hair behaves as well as possible for a stylist? Hair for your wedding is definitely something you should leave to the pros -- although prepping your hair as much as possible is definitely a good idea.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 AM on June 14, 2016

My stylist got my thin, fine hair that does not hold curl* to stay wavy for three days even after he vigorously brushed it out. He did it by wrapping it in a curling iron and heating the curl, then by immediately wrapping it around a curler, clipping it, and letting it stay until it was 100% cool. However! I have not been able to reproduce it on my own: there's some magic combination of product, heat, curl size, and curler that he knows because he's got two decades of experience doing hair all day. So, I suggest you try that technique out, but book a stylist for the day itself. (and for a test run a couple of weeks beforehand.)

*It's developed waves as I age. It still doesn't hold artificial curls for even an hour.
posted by telophase at 11:17 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had your hair - I had the pros do it!
posted by heathrowga at 11:20 AM on June 14, 2016

I have very fine but quite thick hair, my siblings have hair more like yours, so I know what you are dealing with.
The best advise above is to stop washing it. STOP WASHING IT!!! Rinse it in clean (not too hard*) water every day if you like, but keep out the soap. Wash it when you are married. If you rinse it with pure water, it will not get smelly or dull.
Don't color or bleach it, and don't use products during this period of non-washing.

Even though I have a lot of hair and it is wavy, I can not achieve the hair from your references if there are products in it, except from one product which is salt water spray. It must be completely unadulterated. I spray in salt water while the hair is wet from rinsing (no conditioner), and then let it air dry while scrunching regularly. I make sure to get the salt water and the scrunching to affect the hair roots. When it is completely dry, I comb through it very carefully to get the soft look. Hairspray is actually OK at this point, but it makes the whole thing a little weird to touch.

Ideally, before you start the no-washing proces, which should be at least two weeks, preferably more, you can do a hair mask of your choice. I've used Nivea cream often, and olive oil sometimes, a commercial mask is OK too. Rub in the fatty substance, let it sit for 30 mins, rinse it out. Let your hair dry naturally.

*if the water where you live is hard (rich in minerals), you should boil or filter the water before rinsing your hair with it.
posted by mumimor at 11:25 AM on June 14, 2016

I have your exact hair. I've managed to get a curl to hold in my hair with pin curls that I slept in overnight and also left in until the last possible second. After that, even brushing out my hair left it curly until my next wash. That said, I don't think pin curls result in the type of texture you want. I did it for a costume where I needed a 1940s look. It did not result in beachy boho waves or the sort of Disney Princess/pinterest look from your image links. But maybe try it and see what you think?
posted by Sara C. at 12:01 PM on June 14, 2016

I've got the cursed forever straight hair too! One thing I've noticed when getting my hair done professionally is that (in addition to their superior skills with stuff like curling irons/other tools) the stylist always uses TONS of product. Like, more than I would have ever conceived of using in one hairdo. It's not something I'd want to deal with doing every day, but for a special occasion, can be worth the hassle.

I'm talking mousse, volumizer, texturizer, and hairspray all in the same hairdo. After working in loads of mousse and volumizer, blowdry with a hot brush to build volume at the roots and then curl from there. Finish off with texturizing spray and of hairspray, sprayed at a good distance from the scalp (when I spray it too close it can just kind of re-wet the hair instead of holding it where it is).

Mousses can be hit-or-miss in terms of volumizing versus weighting down my hair, but I've had good results recently with this John Frieda one. I also love this texturizing spray (which of course my salon promptly stopped carrying as soon as they got me hooked on it) - it's seriously magical for getting my fine, thin hair to stay where I want it without having that hairspray "shell". Good luck!
posted by augustimagination at 4:17 PM on June 14, 2016

I have fine, thin straight hair. Sometimes I can get it to hold waves for a minute, but it's a huge struggle.

I got married outdoors at the San Diego courthouse which is like inches away from the bay, humid and windy as hell. My hair looks like Marilyn Monroe's in the wedding pictures. Took a stylist 20 minutes, cost me $50.

posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 4:46 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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